SINGAPORE — A jobless man who fatally stabbed a stranger at Punggol Field in what was described as a "senseless" killing was sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane on Thursday (15 September).
CNA reported that Surajsrikan Diwakar Mani Tripathi, 22, pleaded guilty to one count of murdering 38-year-old Tay Rui Hao while both were jogging at Punggol Field on the night of 10 May 2020, amid Singapore's circuit breaker period during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Surajsrikan and Tay lived in Punggol, but did not know each other.
Date was significant to killer
The court heard that the 10 May date was a significant date for Surajsrikan, as it was the date his father had abandoned his family. CNA reported that it was also the date of his national service enlistment.
The memories of the date caused him to be frustrated and angry. When he left him home at around 10pm that night, he brought along a Singapore Armed Forces-issued Swiss folding knife with a 9cm-long blade, serrated on one edge, and a wet wipe.
While he was running, he missed his footing and fell near a bus stop along Punggol Field Road. He then paced around for five to 10 minutes to work off his anger.
Tay happened to jog past Surajsrikan at about 11.10pm. The court heard that, in a fit of anger, Surajsrikan unfolded his knife, chased after Tay and stabbed him forcefully in the back. He then stabbed and slashed the victim's arm and abdominal area while the victim was trying to sit up.
According to CNA, Surajsrikan wiped the blood off his knife and kept it, as he walked back towards a block of flats. He wandered around the neighborhood for about one-and-a-half hours before discarding the wet wipe and heading home at around 12.30am.
Tay called 995, and paramedics found him bleeding on the grass. He was initially alert but lost consciousness later, and died early the next morning.
10 external injuries on victim
Surajsrikan was identified through police cameras that showed him wandering around the neighborhood with a knife. He was arrested and the knife was recovered.
CNA reported that an autopsy on the victim uncovered 10 external injuries comprising incised wounds, abrasions and a deep gaping wound in a muscle. His cause of death was determined to be incised wounds of the right radial artery and a lung.
Surajsrikan was examined and found to suffer from severe social anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. These had crippling effects on his life, leading to low mood and anger, but he did not qualify for a depressive disorder.
He was previously found to have borderline to low intelligence, but was not found to be intellectually disabled nor suffering from any psychotic disorder, reported CNA.
The court heard that Surajsrikan's actions were not directly caused by his disorders, and he was not of unsound mind at the time of the offence.
Lack of remorse in conduct: DPP
Deputy Public Prosecutors Andre Chong and Han Ming Kuang said they did not object to life imprisonment for Surajsrikan.
CNA reported that they asked for 24 strokes of the cane should he receive life imprisonment, as he acted with premeditation rather than impulse, by taking the knife and wet wipe with him on the run.
Chong said that Surajsrikan killed the victim "senselessly, simply to vent his anger over his own circumstances", and in a brutal manner. Surajsrikan continued to stab him even after the victim tried to get up, and there is a lack of remorse in his conduct after the offence.
Defence lawyer Edmond Pereira concurred with the imposition of a life sentence, but asked the judge not to impose caning, reported CNA. He urged the court to consider that it was not a premeditated act but one of impulse.
"When he left home, he did not have any target in mind. His intention then was to harm himself, and in the end, he did not, and the circumstances that triggered him... (are) again not something he had planned earlier, so it's something we submit happened out of impulse," Pereira said.
Justice Dedar Singh Gill said Surajsrikan's sentence "will not bring back the victim" nor "erase memories of this painful period".
"But it is my hope that the sentencing will provide some sort of closure for the family of the victim. It is also my hope that the accused dutifully continues with his medication whilst in prison," he said.
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